Police on Thursday located a missing teenager hours after issuing a public press release, but the total number of missing persons cases in the territory remains unclear.
The missing teen was Makayla Khodra, 15, of St. Croix.
V.I. Police spokesman Glen Dratte has said for months that he is working to provide a list of all such cases. While he has occasionally provided partial, inaccurate lists of names, Dratte has acknowledged that he still can’t say how many missing persons cases have been reported to the department.
The department has also failed to provide a copy of it’s policy for handling missing persons cases, and it’s unclear whether police have such a policy dictating how officers must respond when someone is reported missing.
States like Connecticut and California have extensive policies for handling missing persons cases that are publicly available online and require police to follow certain procedures, such as entering missing persons cases into online databases.
One of those, “NamUs,” is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, which serves as a searchable online repository for missing and unidentified persons records that includes case data and circumstances, agency information, dental records, fingerprint classifications and DNA testing status.
One of the entries for St. Thomas is Sandra Shapiro Laplace, who went missing from Hull Bay at age 27 on May 1, 1974. Her name has never appeared in any of the lists of missing persons provided to The Daily News by V.I. Police to date.
Her NamUs entry was created on Jan. 28 and lists V.I. Police as the investigating agency, and says that “the missing persons report was destroyed in a fire/flood since.”
Another case not mentioned in the lists provided by Dratte is that of Peter Jensen, 14, who disappeared from St. Thomas on Feb. 11, 1980.
The NamUs entry was created on March 14, 2014, by V.I. Police Detective Albeon George.
George is also listed as the contact and “case owner” on the entry for Brian Adamitz, 38, reported missing from St. Thomas on Nov. 4, 2015; Hannah Upp, 34, last seen Sept. 14, 2017; and David Voss, 54, last seen on St. Croix on Aug. 13, 2000.
Of the 16 entries in NamUs for the U.S. Virgin Islands, some recent missing persons cases are conspicuously absent, including Sokotto “Baba” Clendinen Jr., 21, who has been missing since Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas on Sept. 6.
Police in Puerto Rico published a list of 117 names of people reported missing less than a month after Hurricane Maria struck the island on Sept. 20, and maintain an online database on their website of all missing persons cases, including those that have been resolved.
V.I. Police said nothing about missing persons after the hurricanes despite repeated requests by The Daily News, and the department’s website has had no information about missing persons cases since police removed an inaccurate list of names from the site in October.